When a married couple separates, the marriage is typically regarded as ended and the couple is expected to lead separate lives. However, there are certain rights and responsibilities that both member of the relationship need to maintain during and after separation. Australian family law has specific guidelines for the separation process, and the responsibilities of each spouse are clearly outlined.
In legal terms, separation refers to the departure of one or both persons in the relationship with the intent of ending the relationship/marriage. When a couple separates, they are expected not to continue living in the same space or engage in the same social activities. However, most couples still need to deal with the following family law issues.
Child custody and access
Custody under family law generally refers to the responsibility of caring and controlling the child. In a typical marriage, custody is maintained by both parents. When separation occurs, the parents need to agree who will maintain custody of the children.
The agreement can involve shared responsibility, or one parent having custody and the other accessing the child as necessary. The agreement can also be made binding by the signing of a consent order by both parents. A family lawyer can help parents negotiate a custody agreement that will make a lengthy court proceeding unnecessary.
If the parents fail to agree on custody and access, the case can go to trial for a judge to determine how custody will be arranged based on the specific circumstances.
For any underage children, both parents are required to provide adequate financial support. The parent who maintains custody over the child will typically receive child support payments from the other parent, based on their income. Child support is calculated according to income and the number of children that need support.
In most cases, the parents can agree on acceptable child payment amounts that can be double-checked by relevant authorities. If the couple cannot agree on an amount, the court will intervene and decide what amounts are reasonable. Under family law, child support payments are determined by daycare and medical costs, school expenses, social activities, etc.
Spouse support (or alimony) refers to financial payments that are made from one spouse to another after separation. There are certain circumstances that are considered under family law before alimony is determined.
Some of these factors include the length of the relationship, age of partners, employment history, income levels, education, etc. In addition, if one spouse was financially dependent on the other, this will also be considered in alimony determination.